Monday, December 24, 2007

A Lengthy Proposition.... and Jane Eyre

Well, long time no post. My apologies, but I have been caught up in life so to speak! Last weekend was our first wedding anniversary and we were busy celebrating that - but for the bulk of my absence I blame the ABC that waited until the end of the year to put all the good TV shows on.....The Vicar of Dibley, Monarchy, Beau Brummel, The Wind in the Willows have all been calling my name, leaving less time for reading and blogging. And tonight one of my absolute favourites - the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is on at 8:30....I just hope we get home from church in time.

Anyway, I have read a few books in the last couple of weeks which I want to briefly comment on. I saw Debs at War by Anne De Courcy yonks ago in a bookshop in Leura in the Blue Mountains. I was very tempted to buy it then, but held off - finally succumbing and buying it off the Book Depository. I am glad I did, because I enjoyed it. It is part of my pledge to my husband to read more non-fiction.

De Courcy starts off looking at what growing up in a privileged household was like in the 1920s, then how the girls made their debut into polite society. Then she looks at the options of war work available to the young women....the land army, the waafs, the Fany's, the ATS and factory work. I agreed with the sentiment of the girls that joined the waafs because of their nice uniform. I could see myself doing the same......the land army and ATS would definitely be out because I hate to get dirty. I found Debs at War a valuable read because it has provided me with an historical background for the many novels I read that are set in WW2. I will be on the look out for more of De Courcy's writing in the future.

Another non-fiction read was John Waller's The Real Oliver Twist - Robert Blincoe: A Life that Illuminates a Violent Age. I have had a newspaper cutting about The Real Oliver Twist pinned to my pin-up board since it was reviewed in The Australian last year. Still, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it. I am gradually coming to the conclusion that I enjoy reading history books as long as they are domestic or social in nature.

Robert Blincoe was an orphan abandoned to St Pancreas Workhouse in the late 1790s. In an effort to cut down the cost of maintaining all the children in the workhouse, its governors started apprenticing them to trades - chimney sweeps and factory work. At age 7, Robert was apprenticed to a cotton mill in the north of England (when the original one closed he was indentured to another close by) . There he was physically abused, malnourished and worked half to death in very dangerous conditions. At age 21, with virtually no skills and a body twisted and deformed from the hard labour and poor food he was sent out into the world. What makes Robert an unusual parish apprentice is that he succeeded to make something of himself - rising to be solidly middle class. Yet, he did not forget those less fortunate than himself. He championed the rights of the young children working in factories... lobbying for ten hour days and educational rights. And, he saw his son go to Cambridge and become an Anglican rector....not many parish apprentices achieved that!

Another read (a very quick one) was Gerald Durrell's Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons. This is about his adventures in Mauritius trying to capture endangered species including skinks and pink pigeons. Durrell, as always, writes in a fun, witty style which means you just rollick through enjoying the story. I managed to pick this up in St Vinnie's for I am sure you could find a copy at a charity shop without a problem.

Finally......and I have saved the best for last! How could I not have read this before? I am in complete horror that we didn't have this as a set text in high school - at a girls' school too. I have just read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I was inspired to read it because ABC was showing the film adaptation and I always like to read the book before I watch the film. It is just brilliant. I think Jane is a spunky, inspiring heroine. This is definitely going down as one of my favourite reads ever!

Well, that wraps up my reading reports here. I can start posting afresh in the new year. I will be taking a break for a week as we are off to the Blue Mountains to relax in a cottage for a week. We are taking our darling dogs with that relaxing descriptor might not be the most accurate.

Anyhow, I want to take this opportunity to wish my readers a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Travel safely if you are going away and I hope to hear from you in the new year.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

All Passion Spent

I have finished reading All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West. I don't want to say too much here as I am keen to join in the discussion over on Cornflower on the 15th of December. The book is wonderful and I would encourage anyone who hasn't read it to scout out a copy. The plot is basic - 90 year old Lady Slane's husband dies and, for the first time in her life she decides to do exactly what she wants to do, and retires to a tiny house in Hampstead. She is surrounded by a cast of wonderful characters: her bossy and disaproving offspring, her French maid (Genoux), her landlord (Bucktrout) and an eccentric millionaire who loved her when she was young (Mr FitzGeorge). Oh, but the writing is beautiful and Sackville-West captures human frailty so well. One passage that appealed to me (probably because I often find myself in precisely this situation at work):

She had always taken an enormous amount of trouble to disguise her ignorance from Henry. In the end she had learnt to succeed quite well, and he would disburdern himself of his political perplexities wiithout the slightest suspicion that his wife had long since lost the basis of his argument. She was secretly and bitterly ashamed of her insufficiency. But what was to be done about it? She could not, no, she simply could not, remember why Mr. Asquith disliked Mr. Lloyd George, or what exactly were the aims of Labour, that new and alarming Party. The most that she could do was to conceal her ignorance, while she scrambled round frenziedly in her brain for some recollected scrap of associated information that would enable her to make some adequate reply.

I also did some cooking during the week. I made MommyCoddle's granola recipe. The second time I have done so. It is just delicious. I like having it with greek yoghurt and fresh berries. It makes a great start to the day.

As I mentioned in my last post, we have decorated the house for Christmas. I thought I would share a picture of our Christmas tree.

And, because we finally got a picture of our dogs TOGETHER (very difficult) I will share that too. Abby is the one on my lap and Monty is seated in front - looking a little stunned!

Well, I am off to have lunch and then indulge in a lazy afternoon with my latest read Debs at War by Anne De Courcy. I am about half way through and it is brilliant (my kind of history book). But, more on that later.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Weekend Ramblings

We had a brilliant weekend here, though not much reading got done. We had a theatrical bonanza on Saturday. First we went to see the Sydney Symphony perform the film music of John Williams. The first half of the programme featured music from, inter alia, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jurrasic Park and E.T.. I loved the violin solo from Schindler's List, and now I really want to see the movie. The second half was solely music from the Star Wars films.

Then in the evening we went to see the Australian Ballet perform The Nutcracker. The Australian Ballet has purchased the rights to the coreography, sets and costumes from the Birmingham Royal Ballet. I absolutely loved the ballet, and if the whole season wasn't sold out would be going to see it again. The costumes were amazing, and the sets sumptuous. And, of course, the dancing brilliant. I might be biased (as she is a fellow West Australian), but I thought Madeline Eastoe as the Sugar Plum Fairy was amazing!

We also got into the festive spirit and put up our Christmas tree, nativity scene and christmas candles. I love Christmas!! I know that you technically are supposed to put up the tree on Christmas Eve and take it down on Epiphany, but 12 days of decorations aren't enough for me; so I favour putting it up at the start of Advent!

I have finished reading the final Maisie Dobbs - Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear. As I have come to expect it was a good read. Maisie investigates the murder of artist Nick Bassington-Hope - well known for painting provocative scenes of real people.
I am now reading All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West for Cornflower's book group. I am about half way through and it is brilliant! Can't wait to join the forum to discuss it.